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County chamber honors Pa. woman

September 19, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Miquela Strait's involvement in a local Chamber of Commerce has benefited her employer's business as well as helped the company be a good neighbor, her boss said.

"She is undaunting in her tasks. She throws herself into it 100 percent with the utmost sincerity," said Donna Long, director of operations for the local chamber.

Strait was named the chamber's Small Business Person of the Year. She will receive her award Thursday evening during the chamber's annual meeting at the Four Points Sheraton.

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The unusual twist is that the chamber is the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce and Strait's employer is Coolfont ReCreation near Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

This is the first time the chamber has granted one of its annual business awards to someone who works outside of Washington County, said Doug Wright Jr., chairman of the chamber's Business Awards Subcommittee.

"Our community's not just really defined by lines on the ground," Wright said. "We don't deal in a vacuum. It's not inappropriate at all to have someone outside the Washington County jurisdiction at all."

"The business activities in Martinsburg (W.Va.) and Berkeley Springs support business activities in Hagerstown and vice versa," Wright said. "We always take members from everywhere. We've had members from upstate New York."

Coolfont President George Haynes said Strait does a tremendous job for Coolfont, and her involvement with the chamber has benefited the resort, conference center and health spa.

Coolfont is approximately 30 miles from Hagerstown, but only about nine miles from Washington County.

"It's a Tri-State area," Haynes said. "It's not that far away."

Strait, 35, of Warfordsburg, Pa., said she was surprised to learn that she won the award.

"I never felt like it was something I was working towards. It was just something I enjoyed doing," said Strait, the senior sales manager for Coolfont.

"I'm really grateful to the staff at the Chamber of Commerce who supported us when we started as new members. I'm also grateful to the company, that provided support," she said. Tara Barney, Coolfont's spa manager, also helped the chamber, Strait said.

Strait said she joined the chamber more than four years ago at her company's request.

As she did more for the chamber, she was asked to join the Ambassadors Committee. Committee members sponsor new members, keeping in touch with them to see if they have any special needs or suggestions for the chamber, Long and Strait said.

Strait also has helped with retaining members by making phone calls, Long said.

"She is one of the hardest working volunteers that I have ever seen involved with the chamber," said Long, who - along with Wright - selected the winners from the nominees.

In April 2003, Strait helped organize one of the chamber's most successful mixers, Long said.

"People said, 'No one's going to come. No one's going to come from Hagerstown to Berkeley Springs,'" Strait said. "The Chamber of Commerce members proved them wrong."

The mixer, which included massages, health drinks and a live band, drew a crowd that filled Coolfont's largest function room, Strait said. "It was just so remarkable."

"If nothing else, I found out the true treasure of Hagerstown and Washington County is the people," Strait said. "They have been so gracious to us and everything we've done to provide support to Washington County has been given back to us tenfold. They're remarkable."

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